Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Title is a Title, Or is it?

By Velda Brotherton

Last week I submitted a manuscript to my publisher with a note at the top to the editor: This Needs a Title. Working title is Legacy, far too common.

The other day a writer friend of mine bemoaned the fact that her book, which had been released recently, had the same title as dozens of others. Yes, that has happened to me too. Luckily, I was with a large publisher in New York when I submitted my first series of books. My titles were dropped almost immediately and they searched for new ones, asked for my okay, then we used them. None of them were duplicates of any out there.

At the time it didn’t occur to me that this was one of the reasons for changing my original titles. First, of course, a title must at least offer a clue as to what the book might be about. It must also attract readers. But it must not be the same as a bunch of others or it will be lost in searches.

So, how do we go about finding book titles that have already been used? I thought it would be fairly easy, but this is a huge subject, therefore once we begin a search for book titles on Google, tons of sites come up, many that have nothing to do with what we want. I decided to settle for a few, and liked Kirkus for a lot of books. Whoa, you may say. It takes money to get a book listed in Kirkus, so that leaves out a lot of other books that, let’s face it, are out there making a search for your book that much more difficult.

If you want a quick way to check out your title, type it in to Books on Amazon. If others of that title exist there they will come up and you’ll be able to judge if you want to have your books lost among those titles. Or better yet, if none come up, chances are there won’t be books out there with your title, or if there are, they are so few and not listed on the biggest book seller online that you have little to worry about.

Let’s continue with my experiences. Once I left the halls of New York publishing and entered that of small publishers, I had a book published which I titled Wolf Song because it fit the subject matter so well. We had a marvelous designer who created the cover that fit the title and the book. But, and that’s a big but, I had no idea how many Wolf Song titles were out and about. The book continues to remain lost amid piles of songs and books of the same name. Never again.

When I began my mystery series, I decided to utilize titles that were already out there, but twist them, and the series became A Twist of Poe. Fun to take Edgar Allan Poe’s titles and twist them then write a story that fits the title. This became even more fun when Christopher Allan Poe, himself a writer, agreed to write blurbs for the first two books. Only after reading them, of course. Those titles should never get lost among duplications. I did see a short story titled The Tattle-Tale Bone, which came close to my second in the series, The Tell-Tale Stone.

I still have no idea of a title for Legacy, I’m still searching. Perhaps the editor and I together can come up with one. It’s easier for me to write a book than it is to come up with a clever title.


Charles Gramlich said...

I often google titles to see if they've been used. I enjoy coming up with titles and I like to tell myself I generally get some good ones.

Karen Corum said...

Titles are my nemesis. I can either come up with a great title, but no story to go with it, or be knee deep in a story and still desperate for a title. I love the play on Poe you used, very clever. It's hard to find a title that isn't too cutesy or over used. Words like Blood, Murder, etc are overused to the point of being redundant. If it's a mystery, we can all assume there will be blood and murder in it. I like the Amazon trick, I"m going to use that.

daytonward said...

I just had this same problem with a book. We went back and forth three or four times about the title before we finally settled on one I could live with.

I tend to look to music lyrics/song titles for inspiration, and I actually have a running list of "Oh wow, this is an awesome story title" possibilities. If nothing else, it serves as a starting point when brainstorming titles.

Charmaine said...
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Liane Spicer said...

I actually enjoy coming up with titles (and subtitles). I've used a song title for one, but the others were all inspired by the stories and characters. It can take a while to come up with the right one, though, for all the reasons you mentioned here.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I could never come up with titles. My first title is so generic when I google it,I see a bunch of books with the same title. But that could work to an author's advantage in accidentally acquiring new readers.

G. B. Miller said...

I definitely could've used help the first time around with my book. The title I had, while it made perfect sense to me, made sense to no-one else and it killed the book before when it came out.

Titles have always been the bane of my existence, since it's the one thing that I can never quite connect the dots with. I've gotten better with the 2nd, but only because it took me about two years to come up with it. It's been two years and counting for the next and there is no end in sight.

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